As traffic continues to increase and roadways become more congested, California’s transportation infrastructure needs to keep up. While there has been a concerted focus on alternative methods of transportation (such as rail, bikeways, etc.), street and highway widenings are still a major focus of local government agencies. The County of Sacramento is no different, as it embarks on the Hazel Avenue and Fair Oaks Boulevard road widening projects. These street improvement projects typically require right-of-way acquisition, and while the acquisitions are typically small strips of land necessary for street and sidewalk improvements, the impacts can often be significant, especially for commercially developed properties.
The County of Sacramento is experiencing just how difficult these street widenings can become. According to Tony Bizjak’s article in the Sacramento Bee, “Eminent domain set for road projects in Fair Oaks, Carmichael,” the County has adopted resolutions of necessity to acquire parts of 34 properties along Hazel Avenue and Fair Oaks Boulevard for these projects. The acquisitions are necessary to make room for utility relocations, sidewalks and bike lanes. These acquisitions are on top of the 41 houses already acquired and knocked down on Hazel Avenue. While these new part-take acquisitions will not require the demolition of any buildings, they do present the possibility of severance damages — or damages to the remaining property not being acquired. For example, there could be a loss of parking, visual or aesthetic impacts, or circulation or access impacts. Local businesses may also attempt to make claims due to construction-related impacts or generally business losses suffered as a result of the projects.
While street widenings — and their resulting sliver acquisitions from the front of properties — may seem uncontroversial and nominal in the sense of property valuations, they do raise a host of issues and present the possibility for much more substantial claims. Agencies should budget accordingly when planning these projects, and local property and business owners should understand that they are entitled not just to the property value of the sliver easement being acquired, but potentially the damages caused to the remaining property.